Climate change will begin within a generation, according to a study published Wednesday by researchers at the University of Hawaii.
The UH group determined that the world's climate will change sometime in the year 2047.
"You realize this is 2047, and you realize this is really not that far into the future," said UH associate professor Dr. Camilo Mora, the lead scientist on the study. "Right now I'm 38. by the time these things happen I'm going to be 72 years old."
"I don't think anyone was expecting it to be that soon," said researcher Ryan Longman, a Ph.D. geography student. "I think that we thought maybe within our lifetimes, maybe by the end of the century, but nobody expected it to be before the midpoint of the century."
The change is expected to happen even sooner in the tropics. In Honolulu, that will be in 2043 -- just 30 years from now.
"What our index is saying is that by the year 2043, the climate is going to be hotter than anything we have seen in the last 150 years," said Mora.
"Picture the hottest day you can remember, or the hottest year you can remember, and then think that's actually going to be the coldest year in the future," said Longman.
Mora and the group included another professor, a post-graduate student and 11 graduate students. they took all the available worldwide climate date from 1860 to 2005, and then combined all the various available computer models on future climate change. The data filled several external computer hard drives and totaled about 9 terabytes.
The researchers looked at temperature, but also other consequences of global warming. For example, the warming temperatures could also kill coral.
"We rely on them as a source of tourism, of income, one of the main incomes for the state," said Mora. "So if we were to lose the coral reefs, you can imagine how that could potentially impact income coming from tourism there."
The climate change could also result in drought-prone places becoming even drier. It also could make storms more intense.
"Once we hit 2047 we're not going to open the door and see something completely different," said researcher Rachel Dacks, a Ph.D. student in biology. "It's a gradual change, and we're already seeing those changes now. But it's kind of a ladder. We're going up the ladder, and eventually we're going to be somewhere that we've never been before."
The study has been published in the journal "Nature." The researchers also have made all the data available online.
While the study says global climate change will happen in 2047, it could be delayed until 2069 if greenhouse gases can be controlled.
"If we take action on it, we delay this by 20 years, and perhaps 20 years is all we need for a smart person to come and make a discovery, a technological innovation that will fix this problem," said Mora. It also could give time to prepare for the change.
Mora and the other researchers also said they were shocked and the result of the study.
"We are going to live to see this," said Mora. "We are totally going to live to see this."
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